It’s no secret that more women in leadership roles are needed in the tech industry. But at software giant Salesforce — currently rated a No. 1 company both for women in tech and women overall on Fairygodboss — employees say they have the opportunity to learn from a variety of female leaders. Take Sara Shulman.
Before joining Datorama, a Salesforce company, about five years ago as a sales director, Shulman said that “being a woman and a ‘tech expert’” often meant having “to work twice as hard to build credibility with your customers.” But she discovered a different kind of culture within Salesforce, and says that her love for numbers and attention to detail (she seriously loves a good Excel spreadsheet) has helped her ascend within the company’s ranks.
Today, Shulman serves as the Regional Vice President of Agency Sales America, and she’s far from the only woman to be similarly advancing here. There are “lots of women in leadership positions at Salesforce,” she says. In addition to the fulfillment she’s finding getting to lead alongside other women, Shulman also has plenty to look forward to in the months ahead — including a new baby and the parental leave benefits at Salesforce, which provides six months of paid time off.
She recently shared with Fairygodboss what’s helped her to advance her career as a sales leader in tech, her favorite aspects of working within Salesforce and some must-read advice for anyone who knows what it’s like to be the only woman in the room.
Tell us a bit about your job. What’s your current role, and what did your career path look like prior to being in this role?
I’m a Regional Vice President of Agency Sales for America at Salesforce. I’ve been with Datorama, a Salesforce company, for the last 4 and a half years, and was the 40th person to be employed at the fast-growing company.
Working at Datorama has been a wild ride. I led worldwide sales as an individual contributor for some time and transitioned into a sales management role when the company was acquired by Salesforce last year.
Prior to this role, I spent 14 years working at and selling to the major agency holding companies. I started my career as a TV buyer at a major agency and transitioned over to digital when advertisers started looking online to spend their budgets. I then led sales planning teams for some time, and ultimately transitioned over to my first sales role at Vindico, a video ad serving platform. Working at Vindico, I realized my true passion for technology and numbers.
I’m excited to continue with this next chapter at Salesforce and look forward to what the future holds!
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in being a women in sales?
As someone who’s only sold martech and SaaS solutions, I’m often the only woman in the room. Being a woman and a “tech expert,” you often have to work twice as hard to build credibility with your customers.
How has Salesforce been particularly supportive and helped you overcome this challenge?
I’m lucky to work at a company with equality at its core — we’re encouraged to bring our authentic selves to work and honor inclusive practices that create equal opportunity.
There are lots of women in leadership positions at Salesforce; it’s awesome to see them navigating what can be a “tough” sales environment, and being bosses at what they do.
What are three things you make sure to do each workday before you disconnect?
First, I make my to-do list for the next day. Business at Salesforce moves fast, so making sure you have a rough plan and action items lined up for the next day is extremely important. Then, I review my notes for any major meetings set up for the next day. And I end each day by reviewing my team’s forecast to ensure that we’ve captured all of the updates from the day. This helps inform the next day’s priorities.
What’s something you’re especially good at at work?
Numbers! I’m the “numbers person” behind a lot of major global deals. Give me an Excel spreadsheet and I will model some of the most complex deals. If you told my 18-year-old self that I would be the “numbers person” at work, she would seriously doubt it.
What about outside of work?
My husband would say I am an excellent cook. The kitchen is where I am most creative.
What are you trying to improve on?
Balance – finding time for myself and my family, while also ensuring I stay on the ball at work. I’m actually expecting a new baby and am looking forward to spending time with my family and taking advantage of the great paternal leave benefits that Salesforce provides, which give women (and men) six months off.
What are you currently reading/watching/listening to?
I love books. Fiction, non-fiction – all of them. Right now, I’m reading “The Boy” by Tami Hoag. I just finished “Frenemies” by Ken Auletta; if you work with advertising agencies in any way shape or form, this is a must read.
What’s the most memorable piece of career advice you’ve received?
The first time I managed a team, my then-boss told me: “You have to give your team just enough rope to go do their job successfully and feel autonomous, but also be able to rein them in when you see them going astray.” I put this into practice almost every day.
Earlier in your career, did you have a mentor/sponsor yourself? If so, what did you learn from them? If not, why do you wish you’d had one?
I had a series of people at work who I respected and looked up to. I admired how one boss of mine put together deals – the extreme preparation, details with numbers, etc. I mirror my deal process after her. Another boss of mine taught me how to gracefully “fall on the sword” when something went off the rails.
What’s your #1 piece of for women who are pursuing careers in Sales, or in other industries that tend to be dominated by men?
Don’t be afraid to speak up. Your voice and perspective are valuable and unique.
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